Privett Tunnel

Train tunnel, raves and BMX in the middle of nowhere…

Today I walked in the area north west of Privett in Hampshire, following some of the old railway line. I started at the Angel, a restaurant and hotel, originally built for rail users:

The Angel, Privett

Not sure why there was a station a mile from the nearest village. Rumour has it that the owners of Basing Park next door insisted on it. There’s a fancy station building opposite the hotel, which is now a house:

Privett Station-2 Privett Station-3 Privett Station

The line led under the A32 here and you can climb down a steep cutting and see through to the old station. The area is used for fly tipping, next to the railway cottages:

Railway Cottages, Privett

Having followed the disused railway north to Woodside Farm, where some work was being done on the site of an old rail bridge, I headed east then south, circling Basing Park. Just past the house and Broom farm, on Hempland lane, is the north end of the tunnel:

Privett Tunnel North

The tunnel is sealed apart from a gap at the top to provide for a bat sanctuary.

After just 50 years of use the Meon Valley Railway Line was closed in 1955. Sometime in the last twenty years, the deep cutting to the north has been filled in:

P1010397

Back in 2008 I found the south entrance to the tunnel:

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Apparently it’s owned by a local builder. When I visited five years ago, the door had been left unlocked, so I ventured inside, calling out first to see if anyone was in there, my voice echoing far within. No reply.

It looked like the entrance area was part of the late 80s rave scene:

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Further in, past some building supplies and a skate ramp, there was… nothing. I made my way deeper. I had no torch and checked the way was clear using my camera flash. After a while though, I started to be concerned that someone might come to lock the door and so didn’t go any further. I read that in the middle is total darkness due to the S shape of the tunnel.

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I also read that one man died building it, and another dug himself out after a partial collapse while digging the 1000+ yards.

Back home, during internet searches, a Nike video kept popping up in the results. I ignored it thinking Google was just emphasising the word ‘tunnel’. But no, a year after I was there, Nike 6.0 sponsored the building of cutting edge BMX ramps in the tunnel and held the Tunnel Jam competition. The best BMX riders in the world, in a tunnel in the Hampshire countryside! Here’s some photos by Nuno Oliveira:

Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett

Apparently it’s still all in there, usable only by those who know who holds the keys…

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6 thoughts on “Privett Tunnel

  1. I lived in the station masters house on the actual station at West Meon in 1955/59 just before the railway closed.

  2. Has anyone walked the entire length of Privett Tunnel? I am tempted but think it could be too risky. I would be interested to talk to someone who has.

    • Hi Julian,
      I have walked the entire length, and West Meon tunnel too. I had to go in with the Hampshire Bat group whilst they did their hibernation survey. I’m not into bats but had a burning desire to look around in there for years and this was the first legal opportunity i had to get in. Its owned by a builder and full of building supplies ranging from tools, chimney pots, bricks to window frames. There are also some old cars in there ( tax discs were dated 1983 and full of mold) and a few filing cabinets full of files that looked like they were from a solicitors.
      You can only enter via the southern portal. This is the end which houses the Nike skateboard ramps.The ramps weren’t so well built when i went in but there were ramps and old settees making it look like a youth club of sorts. Walk past this further into the tunnel and there were the remains of the troughs that were used to grow mushrooms. Further in, its just a blacker than black space….building supplies line the walls with enough room down the middle to drive a car. There’s absolutely no remains of the railway in there. No ballast – nothing. Maybe some old rusty telegraph wire hangers on the wall. Its brick lined but every 25 meters or so, the walls consists of concrete slabs. Along the length, there are the resesses in the tunnel walls to stand in when a train went through. there is no ventilation either so the tunnel has no airshafts at certain points.

      Its quite cool – i went in in January – but dry and not leaking any water. When you get to the middle, you can’t really see the s shape curve until you look back and see the portal light shining through at an angle.

      When you get to the other end, there is an internal breeze block wall about 100 yards in from the northern portal. This has a door which we walked through that only opens from inside the tunnel. The gap from this wall to the portal is a breeding section for bats. This is why there is a small gap at the top of the wall which fills the northern portal, so the bats can fly in and out.

      West Meon is much the same but obviously not as long and more of a J shape. Its another builders unit but also full of caravans. A company breaking up old 60’s and 70’s planes used to work in there and i can remember going down to the tunnel on my bike and seeing parts of planes ( everything you could think of) being scattered everywhere but thats all gone now. I think there was an unintentional fire in there late 80’s ??? and they also tested the effects of fires in tunnels using West meon in the 70’s. You can see the soot all over the roof. Access to west meon is northern end only. The southern end , again, has an internal breeze block wall. The other side of this housed the builder’s offices which were a ground and first floor contruction. In some pics of the southern portal on the internet, there is a silver pipe coming out of the hold in the wall. This was infact an exhaust for the heater the builder used, although in recent pics, that seems to have gone.

      hope this helps. Theres not really much else to add but if you have any more questions, please ask…no problems

      cheers
      Simon

    • Hi Julian

      I walked the entire length of Privett Tunnel’s interior with my Dad, Sister and owner of the farmland where the tunnel is situated. I was about 7 or 8, living in West Tisted at the time and had a strong interest in the history of the railway. Got a couple of books on it as well. This was back in the 90s so there was no BMX ramps or anything else for that matter. I was surprised to read that they had built such a thing in there in recent years. As far as I know they only used it to grow mushrooms and as a bat sanctuary. I remember walking through it with our torches and the farmer’s black labrador dog (of all breeds to have in a dark tunnel!) and seeing a lot of stones on the floor, along with a few bits of rusted metal. I think they were tiny pieces of the rails. Like Simon said, there is nothing remaining of the railway itself. I can’t recall for certain, but I believe there may have also been a goods siding of some sort on the right hand side (coming from the south doors at the only accessible entrance.) We got to the other end where the bat sanctuary is but there was a hole in the wall not big enough to get through. it looked like someone had a go at it with a powerful bumper or hammer or something. This is all I remember but Simon’s up to date description is likely more accurate. I do remember it being very long and desolate in those days before it was used more heavily for storage and the BMX event.

    • my friend and I drove through it in 1975, from the south entrance. Even then the north entrance was bricked up and had a small door which was locked. Just after we emerged from the south tunnel entrance on the way back we were greeted by the local landowner in a Landrover. I think we would have been scared stiff if we had met him half way through the tunnel!

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